Video Game Localisation

Africa has proven itself to be a dark horse in the global gaming industry boom, with regional revenues expected to surpass the $1 billion mark by 2024. While these sales are largely driven by increases in mobile gaming across the continent, PC and console games remain steadfast contributors to the market. With a growing population, a median age of around 19 years, improved internet access, and a vibrant youth culture, Africa offers immense opportunities for game developers and publishers alike. To seize this thriving market opportunity, video game localisation must be utilised, and by extension the role of language service providers cannot be overstated.

Africa boasts roughly one-third of the world’s 7,100 languages – 75 of which have well over 1 million speakers. While the vast majority of these comprise indigenous languages, there is also a considerable linguistic presence of colonial tongues such as English, Arabic, French, and Portuguese. The speakers of these languages constitute the local markets and form the basis of African economies. It is therefore essential to take advantage of this exceptional linguistic diversity to ensure commercial success.

Video game localisation is the process of preparing a video game for a new market outside the region where it was originally published. The aim is to create target content that resonates with the audience in all its cultural nuances, providing a product that is familiar, relatable and aligns with local leanings. This extends beyond the translation of linguistic aspects of the game, to cultural adaptation, as well as modification of multimedia elements. Localisation can thus include adaptation of the game’s name, art, audio, packaging and manuals, and user interface, as well as consideration of the cultural and legal differences that may come into play.

While gaming has been a popular pastime for the last five decades, the ubiquitous availability of the internet in combination with the enforced isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic, launched the industry to stratospheric new heights. Now, it is rare to find someone who isn’t familiar with some or other video game: from Candy Crush to Skyrim, Nintendo 3DS to PlayStation 5, there is a game and a console for everyone. Given the recentness of this phenomenon, localisation practices have not yet been standardised across platforms, engines, or companies. Localisation of one video game may thus differ greatly from how another video game is localised. The field also depends largely on regional interest, buying power, and cultural sensitivities. As the localisation process can be costly, the intended market needs to be interested and financially viable before adaptation is considered.

Video game localisation can be divided into four types:

  • Linguistic and cultural – pertaining to translation of language and adaptation of cultural references;
  • Hardware and software – pertaining to modifications to programming and machinery;
  • Legal – pertaining to age ratings and censorship; and
  • Graphics and music – pertaining to identification with avatar characters and visual settings, and emotive effect of background music.

The key linguistic aspects that require localisation include the written texts such as instruction manuals, packaging, User Interface (UI), and subtitles and dubbing scripts.

By investing in localisation game developers can access the vast and untapped African gaming market, reaching millions of passionate gamers across the continent and creating experiences that resonate with their unique cultural backgrounds.

The future of gaming in Africa is bright and high definition. Press play and select your language – Folio can guide you to the most efficient localisation strategies for this exciting growth opportunity!